Landing the chance to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens must have been the opportunity of a lifetime for J.J. Abrams. Like many of us, he’s a big old Star Wars nerd and a lifelong devotee of that far, far away galaxy. But beyond that, he’s also a fan of cinema of all varieties, and his influences are wide, varied, and apparent in many of his films, traits that we will see on display in a few weeks.

As The Force Awakens creeps ever closer, the coverage is getting thick and deep. The latest edition of Empire is all over the Star Wars beat, and when they talked to Abrams, he revealed a trio of big, yet unexpected influences on his upcoming addition to the beloved space opera. They may not be the inspiration you normally expect to find in an epic space adventure, but they’re certainly all readily apparent if you look for them.

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John Ford Westerns
Renowned for westerns like The Searchers, Wagon Train, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, among many others, John Ford is responsible for some of the biggest, boldest, most sweeping films the genre has to offer. Abrams looked to "the confidence" of Ford’s films, and his use of stunning wide shots and massive, sprawling landscapes is certainly on full display in what we’ve see from The Force Awakens thus far, especially in the desert scenes on Jakku. As a saga, Star Wars has always borrowed tropes from serialized adventures of earlier cinematic days, many of which were westerns, and like George Lucas before him, Abrams also lifts from the western, and if you’re going to ape anyone, it may as well be John Ford.

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